I have always loved Sci-Fi. I can’t even remember the first time I watched Star Wars, because I was so young. I grew up on Star Trek: the Next Generation, Buck Rogers re-runs, Thundercats, Ulysses 31… the list goes on. At the same time I was playing video games, which quite often put me in the pilot seat of a Sci-Fi adventure. I wanted my own lightsaber and X-Wing. (I have them after a fashion now, so yay me!)
I’d like to say that when I wrote The Eye of theBeholder, I just wrote it and didn’t have any doubts about how it would be received based on my gender, but sadly that just isn’t true. I can’t remember where I heard it, but I was vaguely aware of the idea that a Science Fiction book with a woman’s name on the cover would be more easily dismissed than if it had a man’s name on.
For a very short while I pondered about publishing under a male pen name.
There is a famous author from my home town you may have heard, of called George Eliot. There is a statue of her in the town centre. Yep, you read that right; her. George’s real name was Mary Anne Evans. She didn’t publish her work under that name for fear that it wouldn’t be taken seriously.
Her most famous book is probably Middlemarch; published in 1872, and now recognised as “one of the greatest novels of the English language.”
That is over one hundred and forty years ago.
One hundred and forty years, and I had the same fear. Wow.
I decided to go with my real feminine name (No one is going to mistake a “Sarah” for a guy like you might with a “Sam” or an “Ash”) for several reasons, but the primary one was that I wanted people to know a woman could write Sci-Fi. It wouldn’t be fair for people to read the stories, enjoy them, and then credit them to a guy and perpetuate the myth that woman don’t write good Sci-Fi. Thus far, I’m not aware of anyone passing up my book because of the name on the cover, but then I wouldn’t know if they did!
Likewise, I want girls to be able to read Sci-Fi, to see that it is an okay and normal thing for a girl to do. I’ve come up against that myth far more: People telling others my book is “for boys” because of the Science Fiction themes in it. There are male characters in my stories, but there are also female characters, and there is even one story that features a spaceship as the main “character”!
I hope that if a girl sees a female name on the cover of the book, they will realise that women are equally allowed to enjoy the genre; it’s not an entirely male dominated thing.
How did the George Eliot story end? Well, she admitted to being the novelist that the pubic had become so interested in; and she didn’t lose her fanbase because of it. Would she have had the same initial success if they had known she was a woman from the start, or would they have passed her books over in search of a “proper” story merely because of the name? No one can say.
Well, I’ve got a short story on the go to submit to this edition of LIGHTSPEED. I don’t know if I’ll be lucky enough to get published or not. I hope there will be plenty of women submitting their stories, even if that means a lot of competition! ;) At the end of it all, it’s about having fun and enjoying the genre we love. It’s okay for people not to like the stories, as long as they do so on the basis of the writing, not on the irrelevant fact that the person writing it is female.
So for men and women around the globe who love good Sci-Fi, I’d ask you to check out this Kickstarter and offer your support, either monetarily or with a Share, so we women can destroy what Sci-Fi is seen to be, and join in on what Sci-Fi is all about; exploration, discovery and adventure!